Autophagy: the collapse of myths about proper nutrition

Health Tips

Autophagy is the process by which a cell recycles its own constituents. This phenomenon was first described by the Belgian biochemist Christian De Duve back in 1963. But before Yoshinori Ohsumi, no one knew whether this ability of cells is innate, which genes are responsible for it, and how to start the process.

Now, thanks to the Japanese, we have literally received a bomb – the confirmation of many freaks and the refutation of many official theories of healthy eating.

Alexey Moskalev, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Head of the Laboratory of Genetics of Lifespan and Aging at Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, author of the book “The Intestine of a Long-Livers”, intelligibly explains to Goodshapetips readers what autophagy is, what exactly Yoshinori Osumi discovered, why he was given an award and how we all are now live with this new knowledge.

Osumi’s experiments

In July 2008, the International Genetics Congress took place in Berlin. Then I was lucky to attend a lecture by Osumi, where he told the essence of the phenomenon he had discovered. I was very impressed by the simplicity and elegance of the experiment. Working with yeast cells, Yoshinori kept them on a “starvation diet” – in an environment with a low level of glucose. Observing the cells in a light microscope, he found that with a low-calorie diet, the cytoplasm of the cells boils, as it were, a large number of bubbles appear in it. As it turned out, with a lack of food, the cell begins to digest itself. At the same time, old and damaged structures (accumulations of oxidized proteins, defective mitochondria) are primarily consumed. As a result, the cell is rejuvenated. However, if fasting continues for a long time, autophagy can destroy the cell.

We are not yeast, but our cells are also capable of autophagy. This ability is genetically determined. In humans, it starts with a lack of certain amino acids: leucine, arginine, lysine and methionine, which are rich in animal products. By partially replacing animal proteins with vegetable proteins, we promote the process of autophagy, slow down our aging and reduce the risks of tumor, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

How to start the autophagy process

If cells are forced to starve, then they will have to use not external “building materials”, but themselves “taken apart for spare parts”, throw away the unusable, and build an updated version of themselves from the usable.

However, if you constantly live in malnutrition mode, then autophagy will not stop at the right stage – and this will lead to the process of degeneration.

So we will have to return to the old, but not forgotten, theory of curative fasting.

There are several types of it. University of Southern California Los Angeles researcher Walter Longo has been studying the effects of restrictive dieting and fasting on health and longevity for many years. He described the two modes in detail:

  • intermittent fasting: a day without food, and then one or two days of normal nutrition;
  • prolonged fasting: two or more days without food, and then at least a week break until the next hunger.

Note that we are talking about refusing food, but not water.

intermittent fasting

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps activate nerve connections and improve cognitive functions, increases tissue sensitivity to insulin, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, delays the appearance of tumors, prevents inflammatory diseases (in particular, dermatitis), promotes the regeneration of blood cells, increases the proportion white blood cells, stimulates the immune system.

Experiments on mice confirmed that intermittent fasting is the prevention of diabetes, as well as tumor, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. In humans, intermittent fasting has normalized glucose levels and blood pressure. Two months in the “fasting every other day” mode contributed to a decrease in the number of inflammatory markers in patients with bronchial asthma.

This, of course, is not very compatible with the norm generally accepted in modern dietology “to eat little and often.” If you eat often, then the production of insulin is constantly stimulated, cell insensitivity to it, insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes, gradually develops.

Prolonged fasting

Prolonged fasting cycles (two or more days) with at least a week of normal food intake between them activated autophagy, resulting in increased sensitivity of tumors to therapy in patients, improved regulation of glucose, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1 levels.

It should be noted that prolonged starvation led to a decrease in liver weight and the number of leukocytes in the blood. However, when food was resumed, powerful renewal processes were launched both in the liver and in the immune system.

This approach should be used under medical supervision. Especially careful with prolonged fasting should be after 65 years, since the lack of proteins at this age contributes to unwanted loss of muscle mass.

“Wrong” nutrition

How many times have you believed and not believed that “you can’t eat after six”? So, the theory is close to the truth, if we consider it in the aspect of our new knowledge about autophagy. And recommendations for frequent fractional nutrition fail again.

In mouse studies, mice fed 12-hourly intervals for the same daily calorie intake were found to outperform those fed frequently and sparingly: their circadian rhythms improved (in particular, they slept better), did not develop, or even reversed metabolic diseases.

Therefore, if you don’t have time to eat at work, and sit down at the table only in the morning and / or in the evening, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Rejoice! And don’t snack on small things in the middle of the day.

Eating with breaks of 12 hours or more also triggers autophagy. With this diet, body fat mass decreases, but muscle mass is not lost, the level of cholesterol and glucose in the blood decreases. Fasting more than 13 hours from evening to morning reduces the risk of breast cancer.

How to Induce Autophagy Without Starving

It is possible to induce autophagy without starvation, although the effect will not be as noticeable.

Substances that promote autophagy:

Urolithin A (formed by intestinal microflora (Clostridium leptum) from juice of pomegranates, strawberries, raspberries, red wine (aged in oak barrels)

spermidine (mushrooms, cheese, grapefruit)

Cucurbitacin I (bitter cucumbers)

Fizalin A (physalis)

Dioscin (soy)

Resveratrol (red grapes)

Curcumin (curry seasoning)

catechin, epicatechin (green tea, cocoa)

20(S)-protopanoxatriol, magnoflorin (ginseng root)

Gamma Tocotrienol (Brown rice)

Vitamin B3 (white meat, bread, oats, legumes, barley, mushrooms, peanuts, walnuts)

Vitamin D (fish, dairy products)


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